Conservatives divided on anti-Islamophobia motion
A House of Commons push to condemn Islamaphobia has created a wedge in the Conservative leadership race, driven by far-right blogs.
By Alex Boutilier
Toronto Star | February 14, 2017
OTTAWA — A push to condemn Islamaphobia in the House of Commons has created a wedge in the Conservative leadership race, driven by far-right blogs claiming it’s an attack on freedom of expression.
The motion, scheduled to be debated in Parliament on Wednesday, asks MPs to recognize the need to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” against Muslims and condemn “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
It further asks the Common’s heritage committee to examine the issues of racism and religious discrimination, including Islamaphobia, and to collect more data on hate crimes in Canada.
The motion, introduced by Liberal Mississauga–Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid, would in no way change Canadian hate crime laws, nor does it call for further limiting Canadians’ Charter-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.
But over the weekend, prominent Conservative MPs vying for the party’s leadership say they’ve been convinced to vote against the bill.
“Is this motion a first step towards restricting our right to criticize Islam?” wrote Maxime Bernier, one of the race’s leading candidates, over the weekend.
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Amira Elghawaby, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it’s “unclear” how studying Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination would limit freedom of speech.
“It’s undeniable, when you’ve just had six people gunned down in a place of worship, it’s undeniable that there is Islamophobia in Canada,” Elghawaby told the Star on Tuesday.
“Even prior to that attack in Quebec City, we have been documenting rising hate crimes targeting Muslims in this country … To study these issues, again, is not at all to limit anybody’s freedom.”
“I think it’s a red herring.”